Steam Engine - Applications

Applications

Since the early 18th century, steam power has been applied to a variety of practical uses. At first it was applied to reciprocating pumps, but from the 1780s rotative engines (i.e. those converting reciprocating motion into rotary motion) began to appear, driving factory machinery such as spinning mules and power looms. At the turn of the 19th century, steam-powered transport on both sea and land began to make its appearance becoming ever more dominant as the century progressed.

Steam engines can be said to have been the moving force behind the Industrial Revolution and saw widespread commercial use driving machinery in factories, mills and mines; powering pumping stations; and propelling transport appliances such as railway locomotives, ships and road vehicles. Their use in agriculture led to an increase in the land available for cultivation.

Very low power engines are used to power models and toys, and speciality applications such as the steam clock.

The presence of several phases between heat source and power delivery has meant that it has always been difficult to obtain a power-to-weight ratio anywhere near that obtainable from internal combustion engines; notably this has made steam aircraft extremely rare. Similar considerations have meant that for small and medium-scale applications steam has been largely superseded by internal combustion engines or electric motors, which has given the steam engine an out-dated image. However it is important to remember that the power supplied to the electric grid is predominantly generated using steam turbine plant, so that indirectly the world's industry is still dependent on steam power. Recent concerns about fuel sources and pollution have incited a renewed interest in steam both as a component of cogeneration processes and as a prime mover. This is becoming known as the Advanced Steam movement.

Steam engines can be classified by their application:

Read more about this topic:  Steam Engine

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